Teenagers can dream big when planning their lives. One day they say they’ll be a doctor and the next a lawyer and the day after that an actor.

But Alyssa Carson’s never wavered on what she intends to do. She says she’s going to be on the first human mission to Mars, and it’s hard not to believe she'll find a way to make it happen.

She first made the declaration that she would be visiting the red planet at age three, and since then, all of her passion and focus has been channeled into becoming an astronaut and going to Mars.

“It’s always been Mars,” her father, Bert Carson said, “There have been other things, ‘One day I’ll be (an LSU) Golden Girl and then go to Mars' or one day I’ll go to Mars and then teach.’ But Mars has always been there.”

She’s only sixteen, but her resume reads like someone twice her age: she’s personally witnessed three space shuttle launches, she’s the youngest to ever graduate from the Advanced Space Academy, she’s the first person in the world to attend all three NASA space camps in the U.S., Canada and Turkey, she’s the youngest person to ever apply and be accepted to the Advanced Possum Academy where she studies suborbital space flight, she’s one of seven ambassadors for a Dutch company whose stated mission is to build a colony on Mars.

Alyssa also never seems to burn out.

“I guess space is such a large part of my life and I have such a passion for it, that I’m always wanting to learn more,” she said. “It never feels like work.”

She studies all the subjects that she takes at The Baton Rouge International School in four languages, and supplements her regular school work with courses in Space Physiology at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. By September, she’ll have earned a college level certificate in applied astronautics.

But there is more going on than mere credential collecting to be an astronaut. As Alyssa’s list of bona fides has grown, so has her maturity and understanding of the magnitude of what she is trying to accomplish. Her childhood fascination with Mars is now a refined sense of purpose and calling in something bigger than herself, to the point that she’s willing to miss the return flight from Mars should the situation arise.

“The current plans have a return mission, but if they didn’t come back I would still want to be a part of the mission," she said. “It’s so important to get people to realize we can explore further. It’s bigger than myself and the sacrifices I would have to make.”

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Alyssa’s achievements and singularity of purpose have brought international notoriety, and with it, a second calling. In recent years, she’s become a role model and motivational speaker for kids around the world from a number of backgrounds. This past weekend she spoke in Orlando at a worldwide convention for Jewish teen leaders. She shared a platform with World Cup soccer champion Abby Wambach.

She’s also delivered talks in fifteen different countries, including a TED Talk in Kalamata, Greece and has upcoming engagements scheduled at Microsoft events in New York and Detroit as part of a community outreach.

“Inspiring kids is always something I love doing,” she said, “and it enables me to travel a bit.”

Her message is simple: find a passion and pursue it.

“I want to encourage people to find goals and aspirations, and then work towards them and never give up,” she said.

Alyssa will be delivering that message this Saturday at the One Book One Community launch party being held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library for this year’s book, Hidden Figures, the story of female African American mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Cold War. She will be joined by Dr. Tamiara Wade, former Learning Expert at the NASA Stennis Space Center.

Despite her fame, however, Alyssa stays grounded, thanks to a support system of friends and family anchored by her father.

“I’ve tried to give her a balanced life,” Bert Carson said. “This Saturday she will be competing in an academic event as a representative of her school, then speaking at the Library, and then we have a school dance at Dunham.”